A Black teacher is suing the Charter Oak Unified School District, alleging he was demoted from the rank of principal earlier this year because of his ethnicity as well as in retaliation for complaining about the way he was treated.

Peter Pannell’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges discrimination, retaliation, harassment, failure to investigate and prevent and a violation of the state Labor Code. Pannell seeks unspecified damages in the suit brought Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the district said the COUSD does not comment on pending litigation.

Pannell, now 60, was hired in July 2018 as principal of Cedargrove Elementary School in Covina, the suit states. In September 2020, a vice president of the Cedargrove School PTA suggested that all students be given materials expressing support for law enforcement officers who had been shot, the suit states. Pannell angered the vice president by saying that it would be only fair to also educate students on the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom died at the hands of police, the suit states.

Pannell advised the PTA that doing either the organization’s proposal or his additional recommendation might be deemed too political to be done at a school, according to the suit.

“Instead of engaging in further discussion, the vice president attacked plaintiff personally and implied plaintiff ‘s political views were putting her child at risk,” the suit states.

That same month, Pannell was criticized by the teacher’s union and the superintendent after issuing a disciplinary report about a white teacher, the suit states.

Pannell complained to the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services, alleging he was being targeted because of his race, the suit states. But two months later, the COUSD superintendent questioned Pannell’s disciplining of the teacher, accused him of targeting her and told the plaintiff to rescind the disciplinary report, according to the suit.

During a PTA executive meeting in January 2021, Pannell said he believed there were an unfair number of Black students being brought to his office for disciplinary purposes, according to the suit.

Pannell proposed that the teachers engage in training to understand and appreciate different colors and backgrounds, believing that rather than applying a “one-size-fits-all” approach, his ideas could produce more effective solutions to bad student behavior, the suit states.

“Plaintiff was then openly attacked during the meeting, with multiple participants accusing plaintiff of being a racist,” the suit states.

In April 2021, the district’s human resources department began an investigation into Pannell’s complaints of racial discrimination and harassment, but his work environment did not improve and he felt more targeted than ever, the suit states.

In a meeting with the superintendent last August, and while his complaints were being investigated, Pannell was asked by the school’s chief to explain why he did not get along with “certain people,” according to the suit. The superintendent said in a subsequent meeting that Pannell was “arrogant” and “lacked humility,” but did not provide specifics, the suit states.

Late last August, the district concluded that school officials wrongly failed to investigate when Pannell made his initial complaints to multiple administrators, but also found there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude he was subjected to racial harassment and discrimination, according to the suit.

In a surprise meeting with the superintendent in February, Pannell was told he could resign or accept a demotion in rank and pay to a special education teacher, the suit states. He was told the demotion was effective at the end of the fiscal year, but was not given any specific reasons and the COUPS acknowledged there were no complaints filed against him, the suit states.

Pannell believes he was demoted because of his race in retaliation for complaining about his alleged mistreatment, the suit states.

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